A necklace has been found buried with an eight-year-old child who lived in neolithic Jordan, hinting at a complex ancient culture.
Ornaments adorning the body of the neolithic-age child include the more than 2,500 colourful stones and shells which made up the necklace, as well as a large stone pendant, an engraved mother-of-pearl ring, and the oldest amber bears found in the Levant region. The findings are described in a paper published in the PLOS ONE journal.
The child was buried in the neolithic village of Ba‘ja, Jordan between 8,800 and 9,400 years ago.
Researchers from the international team created a physical reconstruction of the necklace which is now on display at the Petra Museum in southern Jordan.
“The reconstruction results exceeded our expectations as it revealed an imposing multi-row necklace of complex structure and attractive design,” the authors write.
The necklace is one of the oldest and most impressive ornaments dating back to the neolithic, or late stone age. This period of human societal development is considered the final stage of cultural evolution among prehistoric humans, seeing the development of settled, agricultural lifestyle in place of the hunter-gatherer mode of living.
Neolithic society emerged about 12,000 years ago – about the same time as the end of the last Ice Age – in the Middle East.
The necklace provides a tantalising glimpse at the funerary practices of the time, and its complexity suggests it belonged to individuals of high social status.
Some of the materials used to meticulously craft the necklace appear to have been traded or otherwise transported from other regions. Among the exotic materials is fossil amber which has never before been seen in human handiwork from this age.
Exotic materials coming together to make the necklace reveals complex social dynamics between Ba‘ja artisans, traders and high-status community members.
“Beyond the symbolic functions related to identity, the necklace is believed to have played a key role in performing the inhumation rituals, understood as a public event gathering families, relatives and people from other villages,” the authors write. “In this sense, the necklace is not seen as belonging completely to the realm of death but rather to the world of the living, materialising a collective memory and shared moments of emotions and social cohesion.”
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